Getting started with IoT

IoT is here and it's time for organisations across the country to take advantage of the transformational benefits of the technologies and expertise available. CENSIS explores IoT for business growth in this IoT starter guide. censis.org.uk

IoT is here and it's time for organisations across the country to take advantage of the transformational benefits of the technologies and expertise available. CENSIS explores IoT for business growth in this IoT starter guide. censis.org.uk


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with IoT

Exploring IoT (Internet of Things)

for business growth


There’s a transformation

taking place in how businesses,

societies and individuals work

and a new era of possibility

is now producing ideas and

insights we never would have

thought realistic only a few

years ago.


Integrating IoT

IoT is here and it’s time for organisations across the country to take advantage

of the transformational benefits of the technologies and expertise available.

IoT is a game-changer, allowing companies to create new products and services or

implement cost and time-saving efficiencies using data and insights gathered in

real-time. Environmental, health and social care IoT applications will also have positive

impacts on society.

The availability and low price of sensors, coupled with major leaps in data storage and

computing capabilities, means that the time is right for businesses to embrace the

major improvements, new opportunities and cost savings that IoT offers.


An introduction to IoT 3

• The road to IoT 4

• Benefits for business, industry and society 5

• Security 5

IoT in action 6

• Example application areas for IoT 7

• How a typical IoT system works 9

• Industrial IoT (IIoT) 10

Business models 11

• Software as a Service (SaaS) 11

• Hardware as a Service (HaaS) 11

• Emerging business models 12

The CENSIS IoT stack 13

• Sensors 14

• Microcontrollers, edge and embedded computing 15

• Communications, networking and wireless technologies 16

• Data repository 19

• Analysis and post processing 19

• Visualisation and presentation 19

Implementing IoT 20

• Finding IoT expertise 21

• Your first prototype 21

• Joining the IoT community in Scotland 21

Glossary 22

Text with an explanation in the Glossary on P22 is underlined the first time it is used.

If you are reading the printed version of this brochure, you can download a hyperlinked pdf at censis.org.uk/brochures


An introduction

to Internet of

Things (IoT)

Q What exactly does ‘Internet of Things’ mean?

A To simplify the vast amount of chat and hype around IoT,

think of it in its broadest sense as: ‘A system of things using

the internet or a private network to connect and

communicate with each other.’

Q What ‘things’?

A We say ‘things’ but really mean ‘devices’ that are

connected via the internet to each other.

Your phone is probably such a device. Some watches

are internet enabled. Often, you’ll hear ‘smart’ added

to the front of something to indicate that it can

connect to the internet and chat to other devices,

e.g., smartphone, smartwatch, smart lighting. In an

IoT network, each device has a unique identifier

and can transmit and/or receive data over a

network connection.

Q But this is nothing new, haven’t devices been

connecting to each other for years?

A Yes, they have. But technology has advanced so

much in recent times that we now have the

capability to connect many more low cost, small,

battery-operated devices to the internet. If we

install a sensor on such a device, the sensor can

first gather data, then send the information

over the internet. This, combined with the rise of

low-cost cloud computing is enabling a vast

amount of new opportunities.

Q Do IoT devices need to connect to the internet?

A No, it’s quite common for IoT to operate in a closed

private network, especially in industrial applications

where control over a full system is required, or

where there is no internet connectivity. Everything is

contained within a private network so that no data

leaves the system.

Q What kind of ‘data’ is collected?

A Sensors detect and measure changes, e.g., changes in

vibration, impact, heat, light, energy, colour, gases and

temperature. So, you can create a system of sensors, all

working together to measure information that is

specifically relevant to your organisation. They measure,

collect data and send it on.

Q Send it on where?

A Usually, the sensor will send the data to a data repository

in ‘the cloud’ or local storage. It is stored, managed and

organised in the cloud then forwarded wherever you want

it to go. If you want to measure air quality in a city centre

street for example, the sensor system could gather the

information, send the data to the cloud for you to then view

the results on your desktop, smartphone or tablet. IoT devices

can also receive data which opens up the possibility of

controlling devices such as switching on a light or

changing a display.

Q But aren’t we all drowning in data already? Will the

information be meaningful?

A When the system is designed, software is built in to ensure

that the data is converted to meaningful information.

The sensor system will also be designed to measure the

quality of data required to give value. What you see is a

‘dashboard’ showing exactly the information you want

to measure. You can set parameters to show only

information that will affect decision making, rather than

showing you every measurement. Data analytics can also

be performed on this data to extract trends, anomalies,

and behaviours.

Q Is it private or can other people see the information?

A Only you and those you authorise will be able to see it.

When setting up your system, you can specify the level

of privacy and security you require. We strongly advocate

designing with privacy and security in mind from the start

to ensure the system meets the needs of the application

without compromising the integrity of the system.


The road to IoT

From M2M to IoT

While IoT is a relatively new term, machine to machine

communication (M2M) has been around for decades. Starting

with the development of the telegraph in the 1830s, through

the first general communications networks such as ARPANET

(the predecessor to the internet) and the explosion of

personal computing beginning in the 1970s, M2M has been

used for monitoring industrial machinery and reporting status

information to a supervisory system. M2M communications

were originally wired systems but the development of

wireless cellular technology in the 1990s saw M2M become

more prevalent.

The term ‘Internet of Things’ was coined by a British

technologist, Kevin Ashton, in 1999. One of the first true

IoT-type applications, however, was introduced at Carnegie

Mellon University in Pittsburgh in the early 1980s. Thirsty

computer science graduate students hooked up the campus

vending machine to ARPANET to check if a drink was

available (and cold), before leaving their desks.

The true difference between M2M and IoT comes with the

proliferation of connected devices, driven by technology


The development of

MEMS technology

has allowed IoT devices to

contain smart, low cost, low

power sensors.

Technology evolutions driving IoT

Computing power

In 1965, computing scientist Gordon Moore, predicted

that the number of transistors in a dense integrated circuit

(microchip) would double every two years. This proved

accurate for decades as more and more powerful

computing capability became available in smaller and

smaller packages. Today a smartphone has more

computing power than all of the NASA computers

used during the Apollo missions.

Computing cost

The exponential increase in microprocessors and

microcontrollers has seen a similar reduction in the

cost of computing power.

Wireless technology

The development of wireless networks such as cellular

(2G, 2.5G, 3G, 4G and now 5G), Wi-Fi, Bluetooth,

LPWAN and Satellite, has made the ‘connected’ part

of ‘connected devices’ easier to implement, as they

eliminate wired connections.

Low power electronics and battery technology

Although computing power density has increased

enormously, improvements in power efficiency of

electronics has meant that the IoT devices can be

powered by small batteries for long periods (even years

in some cases). This, together with more efficient battery

technology, has led to widespread use of wireless devices.

MEMS Technology

MEMS (Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems) is a technology

using microfabrication methods to produce tiny (less than

1mm) devices, usually with moving parts, which can be

incorporated into sensors and actuators with an extremely

small size and cost. Examples of typical sensors in a

smartphone are: gyroscopes, accelerometers and



Benefits for business,

industry and society

Advances in low power electronics, communications

standards, and increased efficiencies in battery technologies

have heralded a new era for IoT. Power efficient, inexpensive

devices with a long range of communication are available off

the shelf, allowing all sizes of businesses and organisations,

in all types of sectors, to design and implement an IoT solution.

IoT enables organisations to have greater visibility into aspects

of their businesses that may have previously been hidden.

This valuable information, often available in real-time, has a

multitude of business benefits.


Better use of time speeds up processes


People exposed to less

hazardous environments


Identify and eliminate process errors


Cost savings and increased

productivity leads to

increased profitability




Monitoring for health and

social care


Pollution levels, air quality,

flooding alerts


New and more effective ways to

monitor and report compliance



New products and service

opportunities or new markets

Business intelligence

Allowing gathering of data to make better

decisions to benefit the organisation


Any device connected to the internet may be vulnerable

to attack, and IoT devices are no different. It is essential that

each device is properly protected with security designed in

from the initial concept of an IoT project. Secure protocols

should be put in place and rigorous testing carried out

before use.

The UK is investigating a plan to increase cyber security

across consumer IoT devices with requirements from

manufacturers to build in security features and label devices

so consumers have information about how secure their

devices are.

UK Government cyber security information:


For more cyber security information go to: censis.org.uk

Studies show that with improved security,

businesses would not only buy more IoT

devices, they would pay 22% more for them.

The IoT cyber security market is forecast to

grow to around $11 billion by 2025 1 .


Bain & Company ‘Cybersecurity is the Key to Unlocking Demand in the Internet of Things. Syed Ali, Ann Bosche and Frank Ford 2018


IoT in action

Since 2016, multiple IoT networks have been rolling out

across Scotland, laying the groundwork for businesses,

societies and individuals to create IoT efficiencies, services

and products. These networks cover Low-Power Long-Range

Networks that enable lower cost connectivity and open up

a host of new and exciting use cases. Cellular networks also

have an important part to play in the IoT revolution with

new IoT standards emerging that will form an important

part of the upcoming 5G offering.

These new communication infrastructures will be the

backbone of new application development. Impacts from

IoT activities will be widespread and will affect every aspect

of our lives.

As well as consumer, retail, personal health and societal

benefits, industry will apply IoT to critical infrastructures

such as manufacturing, transportation, agriculture, healthcare

and utilities.

Within Scotland, there is a rich heritage of companies

developing sensor products, and the move into connecting

these products is a natural evolution of the technology.

The Scottish technology development and manufacturing

landscape is well capable of exploring, designing,

building, certifying and manfacturing technology to

achieve worldwide scale.

We want Scotland

to be recognised

internationally as a natural

test bed for innovation

in connectivity which is

why we are investing in

our digital infrastructure.

Kate Forbes MSP

Minister for Public Finance and Digital Economy

Expected growth of IoT units installed worldwide



2017 2020

Source: Gartner



Example application areas for IoT

Parking in cities

Food production and farming


To optimise the use of parking spaces in cities to

minimise congestion and maximise income

Could an IoT system solve this?

An IoT system could manage parking spaces to the

benefit of the land owners, drivers and the environment


Sensors are embedded into the ground or mounted on

nearby buildings to determine whether parking spaces

are empty.


Via a mobile device, drivers are directed to a space

without having to spend time looking for one.

Parking space owners (private or public sector)

manage land and space more effectively and

ensure maximum revenue. Vehicle emissions are

reduced when drivers no longer need to spend

time driving around looking for a parking space.


To optimise irrigation in agriculture and horticulture. Over

or under watering a crop can reduce yield quality and

potentially waste water, thereby impacting a farmer’s

profit margins.

Could an IoT system solve this?

An IoT system could ensure crops are grown in

optimum conditions.


Soil moisture sensors are placed around a field to measure

the level of water in the soil. At regular intervals, the soil

sensors wirelessly transmit readings to the cloud, where

the data is stored and information transmitted to a dashboard.


From the dashboard, the farmer sees the current soil moisture

and determines if the crops need to be watered.

If the cloud application detects that crops are underwatered,

it could turn on the irrigation system and water

the crops automatically, saving the farmer time.

If the system retrieves the local weather forecast it can also

disable watering if rain is forecast to prevent over watering.

Efficient buildings and hospitals

Home telecare and health monitoring


To monitor the ‘health’ of buildings and improve their

utilisation. Estate managers and building owners often

have little control over the heating, lighting and

occupancy of large buildings. This wastes energy and

increases costs.

Could an IoT system solve this?

An IoT system could help them better manage

their buildings.


Sensors placed in rooms assess when rooms are empty

or in use. At the same time, they monitor temperature

conditions, humidity and carbon dioxide, noise and

light levels.


Building managers adjust room comfort levels, save on

energy used for lights and heating and make better use

of their facilities. In social housing, this could identify

potential health issues for residents from damp.


To support older people to live independently for as long

as possible. The existing analogue telephone lines for

telecare - currently used by 170k people in Scotland - will

be turned off in 2025. This presents a major opportunity

for the introduction and application of IoT and other

digital solutions.

Could an IoT system solve this?

IoT systems will replace the current non-digital

infrastructure and will help monitor people’s health and

wellbeing in the home.


IoT sensors and communication hubs to be provided to

all people requiring services.


The IoT telecare hubs will provide alarm and health

monitoring services. This infrastructure will enable

advanced monitoring and help to keep people healthy

in their homes for longer.


People flow


Counting and understanding the flow of people,

e.g., in buildings, city centres, at sports events and on

public transport. Understanding how groups of

people interact with public transport systems could

improve infrastructure planning. Crowd management

at large events could be optimised.

Could an IoT system solve this?

Low cost distributed sensors could be deployed

across a transport network to anonymously count

and understand the flow of people.


There are multiple sensor methods that can be used

to track people using or moving through

a space, e.g.,by measuring footfall

or by using vision systems to

anonymously count people.

Crowd behaviour


Enhancing the visitor experience at historic sites and

tourist attractions .

Could an IoT system solve this?

Indoor and outdoor location tracking could guide people

round tourist attractions and cities and give relevant

information at places of interest.


Small beacon sensors can be placed around attractions

to give people relevant information at set locations

through smartphones or other devices.


Better visitor experience and understanding of people

flow throughout attractions.


An understanding of demand/

capacity around the network

can support long-term

transport or infrastructure


Water monitoring

City waste collection


Monitoring water supplies in large buildings and

distributed estates, particularly in remote and rural

areas. Bacteria in a building’s water system could

cause harm to the occupants.

Could an IoT system solve this?

An IoT system could check whether water temperature

in pipes could encourage harmful bacteria growth.

Currently, many water quality tests are conducted

manually. Automating this could save time and money,

provide clearer results, and identify trends


Sensors are deployed throughout the water system

to measure water temperature in real time.


Water temperatures are recorded around the building

enabling the building owner to reduce risk and report

health and safety compliance.


Optimising resources for waste collection; understanding

when bins are full, or if certain bins do not need to be


Could an IoT system solve this?

An IoT system could detect which containers are full

and plan the route to maximise efficiency.


Battery-powered ultrasound sensors are fitted to the top

of each container to measure the level of waste and relay

this information back to the dashboard.


A dashboard shows which containers need emptied

and plans the vehicle route accordingly. In turn, fewer

vehicle emissions helps to reduce environmental impact..


How a typical IoT system works







such as:

Systems such as:

NB-IoT LoRaWan

LTE Cat-M1




such as:


IP connection


Device Management


Sensors are placed

in relevant areas.

Data is received by a

gateway then sent to the

cloud application.

The cloud application

performs data analytics and

sends to the user interface


A microcontroller reads the

sensors. The microcontroller

runs from a small battery

and is asleep for most of the

time to conserve energy, only

waking when required to read

the sensors and relay the data

back to the gateway.

Low power wireless

technology will allow the

edge nodes to run from

battery or other power

sources for years.

The value is here!

From the dashboard, the

user can see the real time

results and also trends over

the past days and weeks.


Industrial IoT (IIoT)

You will also hear IIoT

referred to as Industry

4.0 or Digital Manufacturing.

IoT systems can monitor and automate many complex

processes. Manufacturers have begun to recognise that

networks of smart sensors, coupled with real-time analytics,

can act as drivers of significant improvements in their processes,

transforming profit margins and operational efficiencies.

Predictive maintenance and

condition monitoring


To avoid lengthy, unnecessary shutdowns of critical machinery.

Downtime isn’t only expensive, it can also be a health and

safety risk in some industries such as Oil & Gas where staff

may work in hazardous areas or in lone worker scenarios.

Could an IoT system solve this?

An IoT system can measure operating conditions such as

temperature and vibration around equipment and detect

when the equipment deviates from its prescribed parameters

– detecting deterioration before failure.


With real-time views of conditions across a factory floor,

hospital, oil rig or wind farm, problems can be identified and

managed before failure occurs. Scheduling maintenance

before something breaks saves time and money.

Asset tracking


To maintain an accurate log of key assets. Managing the

location and maintenance schedule of physical assets,

e.g., important, moveable equipment in hospitals, can be

expensive and time consuming.

Could an IoT system solve this?

An IoT system can track assets in real-time, using RFID tags or

other technology.


Asset locations can be identified and maintenance scheduled

efficiently. This reduces administrative costs and ensures

accountability and accuracy. Some industries require asset

tracking for regulatory compliance.

Expected market growth for asset

tracking IoT devices


2017 2022

Integrating sensors across machines and equipment.

Examples could include sensors measuring vibration,

temperature or robot positioning.

Remote management of factory units.




Other uses for IoT in manufacturing

Introducing wearables such as smart safety glasses or

smart hard hats for employees.

Monitoring production flow in real-time from start to

packaging and distribution. This can highlight quality

control issues and production lags.

Using smart packaging to manage stock control,

automating the ordering process. This can also

provide insights into how the product behaves

during transit, in various weather conditions and how

customers store and use the product.

Connecting to suppliers to track products through

the manufacturing cycle in the supply chain.

Using data collected to analyse how customers

use products, feeding innovation for new product



Business models

The evolution of IoT has led to the emergence of new business models. The rise of the data driven economy is enabling

new revenue streams to evolve and IoT businesses are well placed to capitalise on these new trends. As with the internet

around 25 years ago, the most significant business opportunities have not yet been seized or even identified.

Software as a Service (SaaS)

SaaS is a common business model where a software

provider hosts applications and customers access

these using a web browser or software ‘app’.

Payment is made through a monthly or annual

subscription fee and can be based on the number of

users, or number of transactions.

Benefits for the customer

• No upfront cost for software

• No installation, maintenance or support required

• Automatic updates

• Easy to scale up


• Potential higher cost over long time

• Vendor lock-in

• Integration with other products

Hardware as a Service (HaaS)

This is one of the most common business models for

companies selling IoT services. It enables companies to

generate recurring revenue for their product or service

through a subscription/leasing based model. The package

they pay for is often by monthly fee and can include the

item (hardware), all software, updates, maintenance and

often a Service Level Agreement (SLA). Upfront costs are

recovered over the product lifetime. The hardware is often

sold at a reduced cost (or at a loss). The value is in the

ongoing capability provided.

An advantage of this model is that it allows the business to

have a closer relationship with customers and understand

their usage of the product and potential future needs.

Benefits for the customer

• Pay only for using the service, not to own the item

• The item isn’t owned so doesn’t depreciate.

• No maintenance issues

• Upfront capital expenditure cost is transferred to

an ongoing operating expense


• Should you decide to end a contract, the hardware

is still owned by the company that fitted it

Benefits for

the provider

One application is replicated for many users, so only

one application to update and maintain.

Benefits for

the provider

• Easier sale – no capital layout for customer

• Regular monthly income

• Established customer base for future sales


Company use of email, office productivity tools and

customer management systems often follow SaaS

business models.


Smart home and home security products where

hardware, installation, support and monitoring are

built into a monthly fee, similar to a mobile phone

contract or a monitored home alarm system.


Emerging business models

Data optimisation

In this model, businesses deploy devices to their customers,

generally at low/no cost to the user, to gather additional

data around another service they provide. The data gathered

is valuable to both the user and the company and can help

companies retain users by understanding how their product

is used. It can also help the company drive more efficiency in

their business.

Examples: Smart meters with home readout units for the

customers. Customers understand their energy usage and

utility providers benefit from better data about usage patterns

to create efficiencies in supply and customer relations.

(customer value service).

Charge per usage

With IoT, a business receives detailed device usage patterns

data. This model allows a business to supply a service in a

customer’s facility but the customer is charged on a pay per

use model; only paying for the time they use the device.

The customer does not buy the product, but the output

from the use of the product, and will pay a variable amount

depending on usage pattern. This model can be used to

reduce the capital costs of equipment by purchasing the

service on an operational basis.

Examples: In aviation it is common for the jet engine to be

paid for based on the amount of time the engine spends

in flight. The engine manufacturer owns the engine and is

responsible for maintenance to ensure the engine spends as

much time as possible in use.

Efficiency of operation

This is based around a company deploying IoT applications

that will result in efficiency savings within a customer’s

current business. The company deploying the service will

generally provide it at no cost to the customer but take their

revenue from any reduction in the price of the service.

This benefits the customer as they would generally pay

less than they currently pay and it also generates additional

information from the IoT data.

Examples: There are examples of this type of model in the

smart city and facility management space where a company

will use IoT to make a service more efficient and agree to a

form of reduction in current costs, with the company keeping

the savings generated.

Asset sharing

One of the enduring problems with sharing of assets is

understanding the time each asset is used by each user

so they can be charged based on time used. It differs from

the product usage model as lots of different people utilise

the asset.

Examples: In the transportation sector, bike and car-sharing

programmes run on this basis.


The CENSIS IoT stack

A company can be a user of IoT technology, or a supplier.

A good way to see where an organisation sits is to assess its

place in the IoT Stack.

An IoT system is made up of different technology layers.

The IoT stack shows:

• Each layer of an IoT system

• How they interconnect

• Where companies can operate

Some companies developing IoT will focus on one layer

whereas others will deliver services across the full IoT

stack. When trialling a new IoT application, there are many

companies and platforms that can ease the development or

implementation of an IoT system.

In some IoT applications, the end user of the technology

will only see the outcomes of the processed data.

This is because many of the technology layers of the

stack are integrated into the end application, and therefore

are invisible to the user.

This section will explore the different levels and guide

you through the development process of producing a

new IoT application.

If you read through the diagram below, you’ll see the IoT

Stack take shape. Most of the companies CENSIS works with

are in Levels 2,3, and 4 in the middle of the stack. We also

have close working relationships with companies in levels 1,

5 and 6 so can share new developments in software

and hardware.

Devices / Hardware Applications / Software








Visualisation and


Analysis and post


Data repository


networking and wireless



edge and embedded



Final step – the dashboard. At this stage, the end data

will be transformed into a visual format for you to easily

interpret the results.

Converting the data. Software companies will create

programmes and applications to convert the measured

data into meaningful information. Data Science, Artificial

Intelligence and Machine Learning can be used at this stage to

provide deeper insights into the data generated.

Where does the data go? Companies in this area have expertise

in how to store, manage and organise data. This is known as

cloud storage.

From device to destination. Companies who specialise

in transporting the data to a designated storage


This is the brain of the sensor. It does all the onboard processing

of the data, carries out the initial configuration then packages

and sends it. This also controls power consumption. Edge

computing is an emerging trend where more information is

processed on the device, which enables technologies such as

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to be used at this

stage in the stack.

The starting point. At the very bottom of the stack is where you

will find the companies designing and manufacturing the actual

sensors that can detect and measure change. This can be in

vibration, impacts, heat, light, energy, colour, temperature etc.

There’s a huge range of light, motion, and temperature sensors

etc. already available off the shelf at low cost.



Raw Data




As the ‘data gatherers’, sensors are the starting point of any IoT

solution. The sensors must measure an accurate representation

of the conditions, otherwise the data is unreliable and unusable.

The better the quality of the data gathered through an IoT system,

the better value and insight that will result from the analysis.

A sensor collects information from a defined source and converts

this into a signal that can be measured. The sensor resides at the

edge of the IoT system and is often referred to as an ‘edge node’ or

‘end node’.

There’s a vast

range of sensors

already on the market

that can be integrated

into IoT systems.

Sensors readily available to measure or detect

• Distance • Gases, vapours, chemicals, pH • Humidity

• Image recognition • Luminosity, radiance • Magnetic & electric fields

• Material stress, strain • Moisture • Motion

• Pressure • Proximity • Shape, colour, pattern, movement

• Sound • Speed, direction, position • Temperature

• Vibration • Wavelengths of light • Multi-axis orientation


Ease of use

and integration




to consider






Range, calibration

and resolution





Will the sensor get too hot or

cold to function?

Common sensor interfaces

There are many different communication protocols

used to interface a microcontroller with sensors.

Unlike the rest of the communication protocols

found in IoT applications, these are mostly always

wired. All of the protocols below are commonly

supported by most microcontroller devices.

• UART / Serial


• I²S


• I²C


• 1-Wire

Always check with the sensor manufacturer that the

communication protocols used by the sensor are

supported on the microcontroller.




Data Flow








Microcontrollers, edge and

embedded computing

A microcontroller is an integrated chip that contains a

processor (CPU), memory and interfaces to communicate

with sensors. These are typically used in IoT devices.

A processor acts as the brain of the IoT device. Depending on

the application, this can simply read the sensor data and pass

it to the communications module, or it can perform more

powerful edge processing tasks.

A microcontroller provides

the ability to:

• Interface with one or more sensors and extract the data

• Control something, e.g., switch or unlock an item such

as a valve or a fan

• Perform processing on this data

• Transmit this data over a wired or wireless network

• Receive instructions over the network from the

application and execute these instructions.

• Control power consumption of the IoT device

The responsibilities required of the microcontroller will

depend on the nature of the project. It is the role of a

firmware engineer to develop the necessary firmware of

the microcontroller so it can carry out the tasks required.

Return to

a sleeping


Listen for any


instructions from

the application and

execute these if


Remain in a

sleeping state

most of the time

to conserve

battery life



Edge node

process flow


Wake from a

sleeping state for

an event or an




Interface with the


module to send the

data packet over the




Take readings (data)

from a sensor(s)


If required,

carry out

some form of

processing on

this data

Package the

data into a

format suitable for

sending over the



Criteria for microcontroller choice

• Power consumption: Effective performance and long

battery life at the lowest possible cost.

• Ability to support any interfaces required by the


• Performance need: IoT devices typically use low

performance microprocessors (sleeping most of

the time). If more pre-processing of the data is

required, a mid-range performance microcontroller

will be needed.

• Onboard memory component requirement:

If it is more useful to log data in batches and only

send at an appropriate time or when there is a signal,

onboard memory components will allow the

developer to store records of data that will remain

when the device is powered down.

• The preference of the development environment.

• Package size, reliability and ease of replacement

• Required functionality of software and technical

support from vendor.

Choosing a development platform

Microcontroller manufacturers offer hardware development

platforms for their devices. These electronic boards allow

engineers to quickly develop firmware for their products

without first having to develop any hardware. They also provide

a good example of the hardware required to support the

device. This can help the hardware engineer when it comes to

designing a custom board. Vendors will often provide source

schematics and PCB layout files (Altium, OrCad, Eagle) to aid

the development of custom/bespoke hardware and shorten

time to market.

For devices designed with IoT in mind, their development

platforms will often include various sensors integrated directly

on to the board, as manufacturers expect most engineers will

use their device to integrate with sensors.

Development boards are constantly evolving to include the

latest technology, especially in a rapidly evolving IoT market.

Some examples of popular development platforms are:

• Thunderboard Sense 2

• MangOH

• Arduino & Shields

• Particle.io

• Raspberry Pi

• ESP32 & ESP8266

• MSP430

• STM32 family

When developing commercial hardware, products must have

the relevant approvals and certification (EMC, safety, radio) in

place before being offered for sale.


Edge computing

Edge computing moves data analysis from the cloud down

to the device itself and allows some or all of the data to be

processed real-time and locally – i.e., at the actual source,

on the device. Edge computing is driven by improvements in

power-efficient processing which enables complex data

processing on small, battery-operated devices. This increased

intelligence at the edge is starting to enable machine

learning and artificial intelligence applications on IoT

devices. Intelligent edge IoT devices will enable many new

opportunities for companies developing IoT applications.

Low latency

The round-trip time from

the sender to the receiver

to process is

significantly reduced


Avoids network


Closed loop


Onboard processing can adjust

the system in real time to achieve

optimum performance


of Edge



Less data is transmitted

so costs are lower


Data is processed at the

device so the application can control

what data to send, potentially

improving privacy


Offline so more robust

without cloud dependence



networking and wireless


Connectivity and networking describe the (often) wireless

technology used to transfer information from the sensors/

end nodes to the cloud. To connect and talk to each other,

all IoT devices need connectivity. There is a wide range of

wireless technologies that enable this connectivity, each

with their own strengths and weaknesses. Choosing the right

technology will ensure the IoT application runs smoothly, at

the lowest cost, and with the best power efficiency.

Some wireless technologies existed pre-IoT, whereas some

have been designed specifically for it, but all have their own

advantages and disadvantages.

Criteria for wireless technology choice

• Range

• Power consumption

• Data rate

• Module cost

• Connectivity cost

• One/two-way data transfer

• Compatibility

• Global coverage

• Ecosystem requirements







NB-IoT Cat-M1

Cellular 3/4/5G









Data rate




Will the

sensors be

in a fixed

location or

on the move?


Are the sensors expected to be mains

powered or battery powered?


these for a best

fit wireless



Do the sensors require data rates in

the Kbit/s or Mbit/s?

Generally, the communications module will have the highest

power consumption out of all the system components in

an IoT device when sending/receiving data, so developers

should consider keeping the amount of data transmitted and

received by the sensor to a minimum.

‘Peak power’ can be used to understand power consumption;

however, this doesn’t include factors such as time for network

connection, data transfer rate and power consumption in

sleep. In general, the higher the data rate and range, the

higher the power consumption.

Available technologies

This list is by no means comprehensive but details some of

the most popular wireless standards for IoT.

Short range wireless:


How far do

the sensors

need to


Near Field Communication (NFC): NFC is an ultra-low range,

low-power, and low-bandwidth technology. Its function is to

exchange very small amounts of data between two devices in

extremely close proximity to one another. It is most commonly

used in mobile phone contactless payment systems. It can be a

very useful means of introducing the ability to quickly configure

the parameters of a device while it is deployed in the field,

without having to physically connect to it, or reprogram it.

No power source is needed for the secondary device (tag).

The magnetic field of the primary device powers the

secondary device.

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID): RFID is used for

uniquely identifying items using radio waves. It is most

commonly used in card contactless payment systems but

is also used in asset tracking. RFID tags can operate with or

without a power source with range and cost increasing with

powered versions.

Bluetooth: Bluetooth is a global 2.4GHz personal area

network designed for short-range wireless communication.

Device-to-device file transfers, wireless speakers, and wireless

accessories are some common examples of where this

technology is most often used.

Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE): BLE is a version of Bluetooth

designed for lower-powered devices that uses less data.

An ideal application for BLE is wearable fitness trackers and

health monitors. The Bluetooth standard is continuously

developing further functionality, and is gaining traction in

smart building applications. It is one of the cheapest modules

out of the wireless standards and is a popular choice in devices

requiring short range, power and efficient communications.

ZigBee: ZigBee is a 2.4GHz mesh Local Area Network (LAN)

protocol with a primary use case of building automation and

control applications with low data rates. For example, wireless

thermostats, lighting systems, appliance control.

Z-Wave: Z-wave is a sub-GHz mesh network protocol which

is used in similar applications to ZigBee. It is the dominant

standard for smart home applications.

Wi-Fi: Wi-Fi offers a high data rate (>100Mbit/s) but to achieve

this, it has a higher power consumption than other shortrange

standards. It is therefore suitable for high data rate

applications, e.g., video streaming and unsuitable for remote

locations or battery-operated devices.

Longer range wireless:

Low-Power-Wide-Area Networks (LPWANs): The

rise of IoT has driven the development of new wireless

technologies that are designed specifically to meet the

needs of IoT applications. These wireless technologies are

known as LPWANs. Commonly used LPWAN standards

using unlicensed bands are LoRaWAN and Sigfox, with the

emerging cellular standards NB-IoT and CAT-M1 operating

in the licensed bands..

They all have three main technological attributes:

• Long range: The operating range of LPWAN

technology varies from a few kilometres in urban areas,

to over 10km in rural settings. It can also enable

effective data communication in previously infeasible

indoor and underground locations.

• Low power: The communication protocol is optimised

for power consumption, meaning LPWAN transceivers

have the potential to run on batteries for 5+ years.

• Low bandwidth: Typical data rates are very low, within

the range of 100 bits/s to 350 Kbit/s.

The only real constraint for developers with LPWANs is

the low bandwidth, although this trade-off allows battery

operated devices a long-life, while maintaining long range

communication. These two features are essential to realise

most IoT applications. For the majority of IoT applications,

large amounts of bandwidth are unnecessary as only small

amounts of data are generated by the sensors.



LoRaWAN: LoRaWAN is designed with the aim of achieving

long battery life whilst being capable of communicating over

long distances. The LoRaWAN gateway is responsible for

passing messages from connected devices to the internet.

It is a open licence-free technology which means anyone can

buy a gateway and setup a network to talk to devices. There

are also network operators deploying LoRaWAN networks

where the deployment is managed by the operator and users

are charged on a monthly basis for connection.

Sigfox: This was the first LPWAN network to achieve

significant network coverage across large amounts of the

UK and Europe. All of the infrastructure is owned and

managed by Sigfox.

Cellular LPWAN: NB-IoT and CAT-M1 are the standards

that cellular operators are using to target the IoT markets

and will form the key part of the 5G IoT offering from cellular

providers. They differ from cellular in that they have better

power efficiency and a lighter protocol suitable for IoT

applications. These are still relatively new networks currently

rolling out worldwide. They will play a big part in IoT but full

coverage is not available in the UK, so ensure you check


NB-IoT: NB-IoT is the lower bandwidth cellular LPWAN IoT

standard. It is designed for fixed device location use for low

power battery device operation. It has higher bandwidth that

LoRaWAN and Sigfox however this comes with higher power

consumption for transmitting and receiving.

Cat-M1: Cat-M1 has higher data bandwidth than the other

LPWAN standards. The increased bandwidth also comes

with the trade-off of the highest power consumption of

the LPWAN technologies. The higher bandwidth means

that Cat-M1 can carry a voice connection (VoLTE) which

opens up multiple different use cases that are not currently

achievable with other LPWAN standards. It is expected that

this technology will be integrated into wearables and health

and telecare applications. The Cat-M1 standard also supports

roaming between cells by using the same protocol as the

current cellular networks. Cat-M1 is gathering momentum in

the North American market with the network going live.

Cellular: Cellular is the wireless protocol most familiarly

used in mobile devices to access the internet and send

SMS messages. It is a technology which is ubiquitous around

the world, with existing infrastructure already in place.

This can make it suitable for those applications which require

connectivity in multiple countries or in more remore areas

(provided of course there is a signal). It favours bandwidth

and range at the expense of power consumption. Summary:

Best option if high data rates, mobility and global coverage

are priorities. Can send large amounts of data over a long

distance but will quickly drain the battery.

Comparison table of wireless standards

Range Peak power Bandwidth Recurring connectivity


cost (excluding infrastructure/

module costs)


Data repository

4 5

The edge IoT nodes of a network are limited in storage size

and processing constraints. In an IoT application, you may

have thousands of nodes collecting data. The solution is to

move this data on to a database storage either locally (privately)

hosted or on a cloud storage platform where it can be

processed from a centralised location.

Traditionally, most IoT devices will push all data up to the data

repository, but with the emergence of edge computing, only

the processed data or data of interest may be sent.

The cloud

‘The cloud’ is a term used to describe a global network of

powerful servers which are designed to store and manage data,

run applications and deliver content or a service. The largest

providers of these cloud services are Amazon, Microsoft, IBM

and Google. The cloud has replaced the need for companies

to run expensive physical servers on-site and offers server-like

services, with users paying when the services are used. Large

amounts of data can be stored inexpensively in the cloud.

Analysis and post


When data arrives in the cloud, a typical task would be for

a software application to

• Unpack the data

• Extract the values from each sensor (for example,

temperature, humidity)

• Check that these values are within acceptable ranges.

Processing in the cloud

IoT devices normally send data to the cloud for processing.

Its huge processing power enables the execution of complex

algorithms, machine learning and artificial intelligence to

extract maximum value from the data.

Benefits of cloud processing

• Huge processing power can perform complex tasks

• Data analytics can be performed on incoming data

to detect trends or abnormalities

Analysis of the data

Cost of





of data


of data

Analysis of the data is where the real value is unlocked and

many IoT companies build their value proposition around this.

For example, a business manufactures and sells hardware for

sensing the movement of people or traffic through an area.

Analytics are performed on the captured data. These analytics

can be used to detect trends or anomalies in the movement

of people or traffic, which becomes a “service” they can sell to

improve the efficiency of other systems.



when choosing

between local

data storage

options and the


Data storage


Ease of


Tools for



Visualisation and


The last stage of the process is to present the information in a

meaningful way.

Depending on the requirements of the user, this could be as

simple an action as ringing a buzzer or sending an alert by SMS

that there is an abnormality.

More frequently, it is a web page, or dashboard, with a series of

graphs showing real-time information from the network. Many

cloud platforms now include tools to visualise data instead of

creating separate traditional web pages to display it.

This may also include an automated feedback loop or manual

two-way communication - the user may wish to input into

the system to control the sensors or an actuator based on the

information they have received.


Implementing IoT

The most successful solutions begin by focusing on the problem to

be solved or opportunity to be realised, rather than on technology.

Look for areas in an organisation where an IoT solution will provide a

benefit over the existing process. Perhaps manual monitoring could

be automated? If maintenance needs could be predicted, costly down

time could be prevented. More information in a specific area of a

business could improve a process or service. With the right information,

processes can often be improved, efficiencies implemented, and

business decisions made easier.


to ask when

exploring your

IoT project

There are three parts to developing an IoT system. The more bespoke

a system is, the more complex and expensive the development.


1 Off the shelf hardware - dedicated solutions.

Buy it, install it

2 Development boards, giving you flexibility to adapt

interfaces and functionality to your needs

3 Custom design - tailored solutions requiring

engineering development




would be

useful to


Is there a


case for the



does it solve a

problem for?

Is data

already being


in this


1 Use existing networks - Wi-Fi, Cellular, LPWAN,

Hardwired (ethernet)

2 Setup own network - manage network server and

network hardware


1 Database storage - Can be as simple as viewing

data collected in a spreadsheet

2 Dashboard information - web app to display data

3 Custom dashboard development - customised

web application or software interface

Are there


systems to

integrate with?

What would

make an

effective proof

of concept trial?

Is senior and

cross functional





Finding IoT expertise

If you have an idea for a product or service that could bring

value to your business and your customers, there are a

number of organisations who could support your plans.

If you contact CENSIS in the first instance, we can signpost

you to a suitable organisation for your needs, or we may be

able to provide advice, technical support and the resources

you need to create a full solution.

At CENSIS we see most IoT projects starting off as small-scale

pilots to test the functionality with off-the-shelf components

or modular electronics. This allows users to explore what

information is useful to gather and if the system will be

suitable for their requirements. A smaller pilot also allows all

the stakeholders to test, play, and understand the potential

impact of a larger scale rollout.


Your first prototype

Joining the IoT community

in Scotland

There are many organisations setting out on their IoT journey

and finding value in sharing thoughts and challenges.

With our experience across a huge range of market sectors

and our knowledge of enabling technologies, CENSIS has

strong relationships with Scottish companies, public sector

organisations, university research groups and hardware and

software suppliers.

As part of our CENSIS community, you can join in with our

regular IoT meetups to discuss ideas with like-minded people,

take part in one of our hands-on technical workshops or

come along to one of our Future Tech events to solve market

sector problems in an open forum.

The highlight of our year is the annual CENSIS Technology

Summit and Conference, where we hear from challenge

providers, meet exhibitors who are showcasing new

technologies, and network and connect with the sensors,

imaging and IoT community.

There are many ‘out of the box’, turnkey solutions that you

can buy off the shelf to let you create a first prototype and test

your IoT solution.

CENSIS has created a flexible IoT development kit that can

help you get up and running with IoT quickly and without

the need for deep technical knowledge. This has a range of

popular sensors, communication and power options and is

flexible to allow the user to measure and send data easily.

It allows users to explore IoT concepts without having to code

or configure networks themselves.

Join our

community at








Cloud / Cloud computing / Cloud storage

Communications network

Cyber security


Data analytics

Data / Big data

Data repository

Development platform/Storage

Edge computing

Edge node / End node

Embedded software

End device, node, mote


Fog computing



IIoT / Industry 4.0 / Digital manufacturing



Network server

Peak power





Wireless technologies

A component of a machine responsible for moving or controlling a mechanism or system.

A piece of software running on a server or on a device such as a tablet.

A network of remote servers hosted online that can store, manage and process data and that can host applications.

Enables devices connected to the network to communicate with each other. For example, to transfer information

from sensors to the cloud.

Protecting hardware, software and data from unauthorised access or attack.

Also known as a User Interface or UI, this allows a person to interact with the computer system,

e.g., a computer screen, tablet, mobile phone.

Analysis of captured data to detect trends or anomalies. Once patterns have been detected, this can allow

better decisions to be made.

Large amounts of data that are gathered through many IoT devices. By applying analytical techniques to

this data, it is possible to determine trends and make decisions.

Individual IoT sensor nodes usually have limited storage space, so the data they collect is moved to remote

database storage where it can be processed from a centralised location.

Standard commercial electronic boards that allow engineers to build prototypes of systems before they go on to

design custom hardware. Development platforms often include various sensors integrated directly on to the board.

Similar to fog computing, edge computing refers to computing services located at the logical edge of a network.

The sensor which resides at the edge of an IoT system is often referred to as an edge node or end node.

The software that runs on the hardware microcontrollers performing the low-level functions, for example reading

from sensors and relaying data back to the gateway or server. See also Firmware.

An object with an embedded low-power communication chipset.

Think of firmware simply as ‘software for hardware’. It is embedded in a microcontroller memory at the time of

manufacture and is responsible for controlling all aspects of the hardware. It is often permanent for the lifetime

of the project, but can be updated if necessary (for example, through over-the-air-programming). It is also

known as ‘Embedded software’.

Computing power that is physically closer to, or even housed in the IoT device (i.e., it moves some processing

from the cloud to a lower level). Processing is generally conducted at the gateway level before the processed

data is passed to the cloud. Often, this can greatly reduce the amount of data that needs to be transferred.

A device which connects end devices to the internet. It provides a connection point from one network (or protocol)

to another. For example, some gateways receive LoRaWAN transmissions from sensors and forward these over

the Internet to be processed in the cloud.

Internet of Things. A system of devices using a network to connect and communicate with each other.

Industrial Internet of Things. Manufacturers use sensor networks and real-time analytics to monitor and automate

complex processes in an industrial environment.

Machine to machine: connected devices exchanging information with other connected devices, without

human intervention.

An active device containing a processing core, program, user memory and other peripherals for communicating

with, and gathering data from, connected devices such as sensors, actuators, external memory, displays and other

microcontrollers. Microcontrollers often come in very small packages, consume very low amounts of power and

are commonly used in battery operated applications. Some microcontrollers contain radio modules for

communicating wirelessly with smart devices via Wi-Fi and Bluetooth etc.

Servers that route messages from end devices to the correct application, and back.

The power used by devices will vary over time, e.g., IoT devices will typically use more power when they turn

on their radio links. The peak power is the maximum power sustained over a short time and will often limit the

minimum battery size.

The brain of the IoT device – can read and forward sensor data or can perform processing tasks.

Radio-frequency identification uses short-range radio frequency signals to transfer data wirelessly. RFID tags

or smart labels can be fixed to items, allowing users to track and identify them.

A device which detects or measures a physical property.

Presenting the data gathered in a meaningful way.

Any form of communications between devices that doesn’t require a wired connection. Some wireless

technologies existed pre-IoT, some have been designed specifically for it. See page 16-18 for available technologies.


CENSIS is the centre of excellence for sensor and imaging

systems (SIS) and Internet of Things (IoT) technologies.

We help organisations of all sizes explore innovation

and overcome technology barriers to achieve business


As one of Scotland’s Innovation Centres, our focus is not

only creating sustainable economic value in the Scottish

economy, but also generating social benefit. Our industryexperienced

engineering and project management teams

work with companies or in collaborative teams with university

research experts.

We act as independent trusted advisers, allowing organisations

to implement quality, efficiency and performance

improvements and fast-track the development of new

products and services for global markets.

Contact details:


The Inovo Building

121 George Street


G1 1RD

Scotland is

riding the

wave of opportunity

presented by this next

’industrial revolution’.

Contact details:

Contact CENSIS details:

Tel: 0141 330 3876

Email: info@censis.org.uk

The Inovo Building


121 George Street

The Glasgow Inovo Building

G1 1RD

121 George Street


Tel: 0141 330 3876

Email: info@censis.org.uk

G1 1RD

Tel: 0141 330 3876

Email: info @censis.org.uk

Join the CENSIS mailing list at www.censis.org.uk

Join the CENSIS mailing list at: www.censis.org.uk

Join the CENSIS mailing list at www.censis.org.uk

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